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Becoming an Underwater Welder

by Maureen Malone

Underwater welders face a challenging career that combines welding skills with commercial diving. They develop, build and repair offshore infrastructure. Many welders work on offshore oil and gas equipment. Underwater welders enjoy a lucrative career, earning between $100,000 and $200,000 per year, according to the American Welding Society. Expect to be paid on a project-by-project basis.

Welding Certification

You need to become a certified welder by taking a practical exam to demonstrate your skills at an approved American Welding Society testing center. No formal training is required to take the test, which requires that you complete a weld and an inspector reviews your work. If you complete the test weld safely and correctly, you receive certification. To maintain certification, you must submit maintenance paperwork every six months to the American Welding Society with verification from your employer that you're still performing welding duties. If you don't already have the experience necessary to pass the certification test, take one of the underwater welding courses recommended by the American Welding Society, along with your commercial diving course.

Commercial Diving Certification

A recreational or sport scuba diving certification from an organization such as PADI or NAUI does not qualify you to be a commercial diver. You must complete a commercial diving training program to learn to safely dive at all depths and to safely use tools and equipment during the dive. If you become a certified commercial diver through CDA Technical Institute, you will spend at least 20 weeks learning about diving physics, physiology, equipment, procedures, hazards and emergency management. In addition, you will perform underwater searches; use power and hand tools and underwater explosives; and operate a hyperbaric chamber. Training dives are performed in a training tank, open water and deep sea.

Other Requirements

No age requirements are enforced for underwater welders. However, you must be in good health and be able to pass an annual dive physical. In addition, unless you have prior experience as a commercial diver, expect to spend about two years working as an apprentice diver or diver tender.

Other Skills

While not usually required for entry level underwater welding positions, expanding your skills will make you more useful to employers. Other desirable skills include fitting and rigging; underwater cutting; drafting; inspection; and underwater photography. This expertise allows you to work more closely with the contractor in the planning stage and allows you to cut, rig and install the pieces you'll be welding.